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Lansley tells GPs he will make PCTs open their books in personal appeal to the profession

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: Health secretary Andrew Lansley will tell GPs he will instruct PCTs to open their books as never before in a bid to kick-start the handover of commissioning power to the profession.

In a letter to every GP in England - claimed by Government sources to be the first of its kind by a health secretary - Mr Lansley urged GPs to take on the responsibility of commissioning in shadow form, ahead of the full handover of powers over the NHS's £80bn budget.

In an attempt to recapture momentum for the plans, which have come in for criticism from a series of GP leaders in recent days, Mr Lansley says he has told PCTs they must support the shift to GPs by providing previously out-of-reach information about provider contracts and previous spending decisions on health services.

‘PCTs already have freedoms, within the current legislative framework, to devolve decisions to groups of GPs and other clinicians,' his letter says. ‘We are actively encouraging this interim approach, so - if you have decided amongst your colleagues that you will be seeking to take on more responsibilities in shadow form - you will be able to approach your PCT(s) for the support you need to begin work now.'

‘This will enable you, where possible, to establish the knowledge of and approach to services which will inform your later decision-making.'

Mr Lansley's letter comes amid division among GPs, with Pulse revealing yesterday the BMA is to attack the white paper's increased role for the private sector and the GPC warning that key questions remain unanswered, including whether GP consortia will be lumbered with PCT debts.

The RCGP has also queried the pace and cost of the changes, while some GPs supportive of commissioning have raised fears that consortia could end up as very similar to existing NHS trusts.

But Mr Lansley sought to allay that fear in his letter today, insisting that his ‘ambitious' plans would not simply see consortia replicate PCTs.

‘Over time, you will be free to develop your own commissioning arrangement, structures, sizes and governance as you learn from your experience and the experience of others,' he says.

He also claims many GPs are 'excited and enthused' about the white paper but admits he has been faced with questions over the practicalities of the handover in his own face-to-face talks with GPs.

Andrew Lansley has written a letter to all GPs in a bid to answer doubts over commissioning Andrew Lansley has written a letter to all GPs in a bid to answer doubts over commissioning Now let us know what you think...

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More on GP commissioning at the NAPC Annual Conference

Andrew Lansley will be among those speaking on the latest developments in GP commissioning at the NAPC Annual Conference in Birmingham in October.

To find out more and book your place today please click here.

Read the full letter

To read Andrew Lansley's letter to the profession in full, please click here.